MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) has allotted some P84 million for the medicine of Filipinos with psychological illnesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, following reports of suicide cases in the country since the health crisis began.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, who defended the health department’s budget before the Senate plenary, said the funds are included in DOH’s budget for non-communicable diseases.
“For mental health, there will be instances where they need medical interventions by medicines for short term and there will be lifetime. It depends… [But] P84 million [is] earmarked for mental health,” said Cayetano.
The senator also said the DOH, with the help of the Mental Health Law, is responding to cases of mental health illnesses in the country because of the pandemic.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in October said there has been a significant increase in the monthly hotline calls on depression reported by the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH)—from 80 before the lockdown to an average of 400 per month.
“They (DOH) have training of frontliners, monitoring, and service… and developmental health and psychosocial support in temporary shelters, quarantine facilities and isolation units. Establishment on telemental counseling platforms at the national center for mental health,” she said.
Cayetano also said DOH’s memorandum No. 2020-0230 that aims to provide mental health and psychosocial services (MHPSS), helped in responding to Filipinos affected with the pandemic.
This includes the distribution of drug and medicines to all action sites, remote psychosocial support through mental health hotlines, psychosocial support services in online platforms for frontliners which has stress management and resiliency programs.
She also urged the DOH to include in its future budget the funding for sports programs to people with mental health illnesses.
There is evidence that sports programs could help people with mental health illnesses as it is a way of coping, she said.
“In the same way that you have hotlines, speaking through your fears is a way of dealing with the stress, and the issues that you are confronting. Engaging in sports produces endorphins, dopamine and all the natural chemicals in our body that helps us,” she added.
“I am a big advocate that it is not just medicine-based. There are a lot of other techniques: kaya nga po nauso yung yoga, (that is why yoga became popular,) breathing exercises, it should be a holistic approach.”
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the state of mental health in the country has been “deteriorating” even before the pandemic struck.
Investing in mental health, De Guia said, could lead to everyone’s access to support and services regardless of location and socio-economic situation.
On World Mental Health Day, October 10, the World Health Organization has called on the public to "post videos showing what they do in support of their mental well-being ̶ whether it be dancing, walking, doing yoga, cooking, painting."
The WHO said the pandemic has brought many challenges to all sectors, especially those who lost their loved one to the virus.
A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.
The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.
These are their hotline numbers:
Information and Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084
In Touch Crisis Lines:
0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305
(02) 893-7606 (24/7)
(02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314
Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776